Sunday, 30 September 2012

10 miler (7 days to go)

10 miles only on hills. 

I found this much less encouraging. Went offroad for a third of this and expierenced severe need for a No. 2. A "gingerbread man" in Marathon Talk parlance. Too many figs? Not enough starchy foods? It's difficult to know exactly why and annoying that I can now no longer experiment with different foods to correct the problem before next Sunday. The other reasons why this was less than encouraging than the previous day at race pace is I didn't sense I had my wife's blessing plus I'd got a bit annoyed when the "window" closed earlier that day (so the emotional/psychology side), plus 16 km felt far and tiring at much less than race pace.

But the miles are in the bank! I need to adopt a positive attitude, with more long runs, speedwork and hill sessions under the belt than before. Particularly in terms of marathon prep, 460 miles (you can probably add 10 or more miles to that figure by the end of the week) absolutely obliterates previous distances run in build up season.

At the same time, the struggle and tiredness of this run highlight again how important it is to stick to the plan as best as possible. I cant just "listen to my body" for this distance yet. I still find i am capable of dropping off the pace if my mind wanders (admittedly this is less likely to happen in an actual race) or going to quick. Looking at the race plan though, I did think it would be good to allow myself at least the possibility of getting close to 3 hours (target is still 3:05) should I feel strong in the last quarter. The issue here though is that because of the elevation profile, I have set myself checkpoints according to the hills and not distances.
1although realistic.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

4 mile at race pace, 8 days to go

Warmup 1.5 km
Race pace, net downhill at 4:15/km for 4 miles
200m warmdown.

It seems every time I do something at race pace I get such a buzz! Running at 4:15 on the flat just feels easy and I only need average 4:22. Today the focus was again on good, efficient running technique, keeping stridelength slightly short and the leg turnover quick. I just love the low-gear wisdom Julian Goater brings to the mix, while I also find it provides for much quicker adaptation to change in gradient. One other point before moving onto an encouragement through prayer was taking on of liquids. I ran with my pack so as to be really familiar with it being there while doing race pace running and thought I should practice slurping while running hard. Here's what worked: breathing in through nose and sucking in water. Breathing out through nose. Repeat, if space in mouth for more liquid. Breathe in and swallow. This swallow with lungs inflated only takes a fraction of a second and then I'm done! Using this method I never felt at any stage threatened with some of the choking I have experience before, but then may be that's to do with being able to control things so much more when sucking in through a straw.

Was amazing to pray with another Christian runner this evening, who really affirmed me in my goal of somehow running for God. I remain in awe of just everything he has packed into this sport and it really is a pleasure to be able to run as well as I am able for him. My prayer as I ran down a huge hill this evening was "teach me how to glorify you", as I believe that this process of honouring someone, for me at least, is a bit like the art of running, it takes time to take it forward, but take it forward I shall!

Coming back to the technicalities of the race, I have been very carefully planning the pacing structure of the race. I really believe 3:05 is within my grasp if I don't make unwise choices. Of huge help to me has been the very timely advice of the lads at Marathon Talk. Pointers that have stuck with me are:
- the tide effect (tune in for a full explanation)
- running slightly faster than comfortable on the downs and vice versa on the ups
- visualisation

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

5 and a bit miles at race pace, and a race plan emerges!

Man this was a great session! I headed down for about a K to the dock area near my flat and aimed for marathon gradient simulation. 3 km flat and then progressively steep hill and back (average 4:19/km) and then a circuit of much steeper to downhill about three times to take me close to a total of 6 miles at race pace. This averaged 4:26/km. I actually think that this second section was perhaps slightly too fast, but it was good - very good - to nail the average pace of 4:22/23 on a whole variety of gradients.

So at last a race plan is forming for the 7th October, my big race day! I have divided up the race into 6 chunks that correspond to the elevation variations. Each of these 6 are at least 6 km long and contain a goal pace for that section (see the plan here). So for instance, in the first section, which measures approximately 12.5 km with quite a lot of climbing, I am shooting for average section pace of 4:28/km. The next section, which I remember well, is almost pure downhill for a shorter distance, and I am aiming high at 4:08/km. Next 4:28 again, then 4:10, then 4:30 (this section really is tough, although more because you have to attack it on such tired legs), and then... well know knows?! There's some long slight downhill and some real slow stuff too, and then the end is very close. There's no point at fixing a goal pace for this section, as I will aim just to run it as fast as I can. However, to reach an average of 4:22 for the entire distance, I need to average 4:24 for this final section. My actual goal is 3:05, which is 4:23/km (assuming that the race organisers have correctly measured the course), but it is wise - I feel - to keep a second/km in hand so that I don't feel like I have to make it up should I struggle at one point. Like a wild-card!

So what does today's session teach me? What have I learned? The contrast of the two parts reminded me that intense hills, even if there is exactly as much descent as climb (I was doing those circuits at the end) are a lot harder work than simply maintaining pace over flatter sections. What that means then is that pace on the flat must be faster than the overall average, 4:22. And yet, of course, it's more art than science, because that perfect flat hardly exists on this course, and so the question "well, how much faster?" is totally irrelevant. A bit!

Random other factor to watch out for: the weather. Last year, the temperature on 2 October 2011 in Pertuis reached almost 30 degrees. This year, there is a projected risk of rain and possibly 15 degrees less than that. Perfect!

To conclude, I feel so much more secure and ready than I did a few weeks ago, and now even with what seems to be a fairly well-thought through race plan, I feel ready. Despite the knee hiccup, this is probably the most rigorous training I have put myself through, and over this last year, so, so, so much has changed in my understanding of the sport, technical aspects, spiritual and mental approach, and I hope a bit of extra fitness too (although I suspect this is the most minor aspect). I just pray that God continues to keep himself part of this love for running he has given me, and that I would run with a great attitude that is thankful and honouring to him, and also to my wife who has put up with much over the last 12 1/2 weeks. I also pray for wisdom on the day with the choices I will make and for health (I am so aware of my dependence on this - for me, this is a big part of the by God of my spiritual journey in running: With him, by him and for him.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Fartlek and what a session!

  • Warmup while increasing pace for 800 m
  • Hard uphill with 20m of positive ascent for 330 m. Jog.
  • 1 km hard in 3:51
  • 230m jog
  • 2 km hard in 8:00 (unfortunately this was 4:06 and 3:53)
  • jog
  • 100m in 15 seconds
  • 100m jog
  • 200m in 36 seconds (unfortunately this was 20 and 16 secs)
  • break
  • 400m in 1:17 (definitely the hardest rep)
  • walk then jog
  • 800m up hill in 142+147, the consistency of which I was much happier with.

After this I started jogging home, but noticed that my endorphins were pumping, even though the 400m had been a total killer - my desperation for my Garmin had become so intense that I had actually stopped and the beep happened as I stopped if you know what I mean. The step up from 200m is just hideous! If it weren't for a prior commitment, this session could in fact have been longer, and as I picked up pace to return back home over the last km I was just overloaded with confidence as I finished with a sprint to my front door! And all that from someone who claims not to like the shorter stuff!

I think what I just love about the fartlek is the way in which it is just so specific to the runner's individual feel on that day. What I found worked so well for me on this session was that the first hard lap happened up a hill, which breaks in the cardiovascular intensity early on without the impact on the still-warming muscles. Then were the two longer stints 1 km quickly followed by 2 km, after which my body is more ready for the power of the 100m to 200m to 400m to 800m progression.

This works so much better for me than a more classic session such as: warmup followed by 8 x 400. On more than one occasion on this marathon build-up I had to abort the session due to twinges on an ankle provoked almost certainly by such sudden load. I believe that there is no progression in this kind of warm-up up to the desired intensity.

Monday, 24 September 2012

More sluggish than slug


400ml Old Speckled Hen.
Very little sleep for several days.
11 km (half off-road, all at night)


23 km in 2:17.
One positive to be taken out of today's longer run (the 23 was "supposed" to be 25, but I am trying to take things a bit more by feel, and inspired as well by Ryan Hall's approach through prayer), was that although I felt really sluggish at the start and there was rarely that much drive, and there was mysterious cramping and tightness in my calves for most of the time, that things really started clearing up after the 20km mark. I actually felt almost brighter and stronger then than at the beginning. Wow!

The important thing to note is that the combined effects of sleep deprivation and the beer had a definite effect on my energy levels, both in terms of getting out the door and just how hard it felt even to run 5:30/km. The beer is easy to sort out: don't drink it, not until after the marathon that is! The sleep needs a bit more focus. Also, I do wonder if I may have peaked a little early with going for that 36 km run the weekend before. I was on such a high after and felt so ready, but perhaps actually there was something of a longer-term recovery needed beyond the initial day or two of more tangible recovery, and ever since I nailed that consistent hill run, I've just felt really tired and unmotivated.

I have, however, been focussing of late on the notion of "how we fall", which is linked to something I am taking my PE class kids through at the moment in their current creativity module. We need to learn to be neutral. We don't need to be on strong emotional pushes the entire time. What this means for me as my motivation begins to fall, as it invariable does and will, and I feel less desire and passion for running, that I revert to a more neutral, going-about-my-business approach, neither excited nor nor deflated, until the next push. True closeness to the date will no doubt bring this anyway.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Hill sprints, finally some much-craved consistency

8 hill reps: 56, 56, 56, 55, 57, 59, 57, 57 (seconds).
I have been despairing recently about my apparent lack of consistency over the repetition training sessions, I invariably fade at the end, and go out too hard at the start. But isn't the point going out hard in a repetition? I'll come back to that question at the end of this post.

So today I felt I needed more hills work, and so off I went to my local "killer" minute hill for 8 reps. Sounds easy, but once I had done 3 I really did wonder how I'd keep the quality going. As it was, I never dipped over a minute, which was really great. I kept saying to myself that the 7th rep would be the hardest, as the last one you know you can throw everything into it. I don't feel fully consistent yet, as the second set of four were clearly struggling and secondly, what I didn't do consistently was maintain the rest time, which invariably grew toward around the 2 min 10 sec mark (1:45, 1:52, 1:56, 2:08, 2:00, 2:17, 2:14)

My only thought on those early reps is simply to say to myself: I have to be able to do 7 more like this. That alone probably just released a little self-restraint while still keeping it a true rep.

Just so grateful to be healthy, ache-free and even the stomach hasn't been this receptive in a while, and is accepting gluten and chocolate again! Woohoo, thank you! And even more amazingly, and it is so important in running I think to maintain some sort of healthy perspsective, I am going to be a Dad again. This is more amazing than all the rest! I am a grateful man.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Sensational 10K yesterday

10km in 42 minutes

What a great little 10k yesterday. One reason I loved it is that after the encouraging (very) long run on Saturday, anything like this just doesn't feel very far.

But the main reason was, after about a couple of K, I realised I had adopted a two-stage breathing method I'd never noticed before, that seemed to enable me to take on more oxygen. It did, I am sure it took of at least 10 seconds / mile off my usual cruising speed. On the flat I was definitely able to cruise at around 4 minutes flat. I can only relate the experience to something like taking the brakes off. It was amazing. Of course it means that as the speed increased, and it was over two significant hills, other obstacles like my calves getting quite tight came into play. But I can't remember the last time I had such a pace breakthrough, I thought I was at more of a tweaking phase in my running!

So excited about my marathon. I feel so sure I can nail the sub 3h10 despite the hills. Bring it on.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Ellie Greenwood on prize money in the ultra world

The Politics of Prize Money, an interesting article on the potentially negative effects of the increasing levels of prize money in ultra distance events, notably creating rifts between male and female competitions.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

36K marathon simulation in 2:48

This Session was inspired by last week's marathon talk (episode 139) plus the recurrent advice from all over of knowing the course to be raced. Today reminded me of how psychologically hard it was last year to a) not always know the way (eg marshalls who prefer chatting to each other than actually indictating to runners the way) and b) be unaware of the difficulty and approach to the three tough hills in the second half. I still managed to get lost on more than one occasion, but with no marshals at all I figure that's not too bad. 

As promised, the negative split (I'm pretty sure) of today's run on the marathon course was a huge boost mentally, even though trying to achieve the goal marathon pace for two 5 km sections in the latter half (three hills) was tough. 

The right knee did ache but only for a few Km around 10 k. I also had some discomfort in my "collapsed" arch of my left foot, also in the first half. These things are worth remembering to avoid over-worrying should they repeat in 3 weeks time. 

Some prayer today when I went through the point where I made a wrong turn last year and was terribly angry with the race organisation, and where I had clearly lost all sight of why I run and the immense privilege it is for me to be able to get out there. I caught myself wondering again what I would say if I did well and got interviewed. I also had time today to reflect some more on the grace and example of my hero and inspiration, Ryan Hall, as he was interviewed in the build-up to the London Olympics: "God is my coach". I have so much ground to cover.

COMMENT FROM 26/07/2013 - The strategy I think was to run at a decent pace, and then have 2 x 5 km sections at race pace when already tired. I like this. Thanks to Marathon Talk I now have quite a few long run training sessions. I love them, they are such a challenge! I will post a page under training about this as a reference.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

11 km utility run, well kind of

5 km + 6 km, with a spot of shopping in between. Felt really good at points today, not as much prayer as I would have liked, but it's coming back. I feel really encouraged to keep pursuing the faith side to my running following on from watching Ryan Hall on CNN.

I have another jog planned for this evening with a guy I recently met who needs to lose some weight. Will be good to try and balance friendship with the fitness side.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

2 x 3 miles

Warmup then 3 miles at marathon pace (4:23/ km), 6 min rest, 3 miles at faster pace (4:11/km), then jog home. Tot: 15 km.

knee felt a little tight at times esp during the second 3 mile slot, where I started behind schedule and was trying to pick it up against a strong headwind. Keeping the elbows in is starting to get a bit more natural, although after all of these months of rethinking footstrike I still found myself relapsing at the end of the 5k s into heel strike jogs, which I obviously overided. Maybe it will become totally natural one day!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Hill session

2 x 1 km jog.
Then, later, warmup followed by 6.4 km climb in 35 minutes exactly,
the first 2.73km in 13:08. I can't find my previous effort at this
hard hill climb. It was either 12:45 or 13:45. Was really tough at
times, and hot (28 deg) but managed to continue implementing Julian
Goater's cadence principle, ie just reducing stride and not allowing
fatigue to affect cadence. I think he's right!

The right knee is still making itself a bit known, although not as
much as Saturday.

It's really exciting to think that there is a good chance that I can
pursue the marathon on 7 Oct!

Got the "good" fatigue...

Saturday, 8 September 2012

18.5 km in 2hrs

Following on from yesterday's success, that is running without stiffness, I decided to attempt a longer run today in the hills. Some very technical scrabbling sections and actually the slowness, combined with the length of time on my feet, may have actually re-triggered the stiffness in this knee. I feel less concerned though somehow. 

In terms of technique, I continued focussing on not letting my arm movement go lateral and keeping the legs moving at a good cadence even when I had to slow down my pace. But yet another aspect is creeping into my focus, and really I should work out a way of drawing this, to do with where my feet are in relation to my body LATERALLY when they strike the ground (I am therefore not talking about avoiding foot striking ahead of me). For reasons totally unknown, I have in the past set myself, somewhat unconsciously, the challenge of running along a single line (eg a painted road marking), telling myself I was totally centred if I did this and in perfect balance. But I think it's since watching the end of the ladies marathon at the olympics this year, where I watched one of the later finishers (from an eastern European nation I think) with a noticeable wide gait, if that's the right way to describe it. Bearing in mind Julian Goater's advice about the arms swinging in line with the direction of travel, surely feet that are driving inwards, effectively at a slight diagonal, in order to be on some central point, could this not be putting extra strain on my somewhat fragile knees while also being less efficient?

Trainingwise, was really very good to listen in to Episode 139 of MarathonTalk for some reminders on the long run. Tom Williams recommends something like a 22 mile, 16 mile and 10 mile distance for the three weeks preceding the marathon race day. I've only just got time to do this! Martin Yelling reminds listeners as well about the art (and encouragement) of starting a bit slower and speeding up at least to marathon pace, while, Tom adds, not overdoing it so much that the whole week is taken out by something that is getting just a bit too close to race exertion itself. I'm sure Ryan Hall would describe this more in terms of "not getting too close to the well". MT's suggestion is (that I will try next week) 2 x 3 miles in the second half of the long run at marathon pace. I think my marathon pace is 4:23/ km ("A goal") while I would really love to ensure an average an average 4:30/ km ("B goal"), which would get me just under the London marathon good for age time for the first time. To get these two 3-mile stretches right in the long run next week, one of the fields on my Garmin needs to be: "lap pace" (which actually means average lap pace).

The duo's key points for the long run

  • do some sections of the second half at race pace
  • do it by yourself
  • no music
  • practice race routine. There should be a link to mine on the right.
  • Don't worry if feels hard. 
I'm not so sure about this last one, although I'll have to report back next week as it is specified as being in the second half. When everything comes together, like it did in the first half of last year's Provence Marathon (see here for the full report), it's easy to find the pace easy for quite a long time.

Here's a few pics of this morning's run, including a sunrise over Marseille.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Fast, and on varied gradients!

From Evernote:

Fast, and on varied gradients!

4.5km in 20 minutes, hilly
Very excited to be almost back "up and running"! Praise God! Today I decided to take a risk. Go out after short jog in my court yard pretty quick. It felt like a risky idea, as I was still experiencing aching and stiffness on the flats and downhills as well as after the runs this week. The only explanation I can offer is that on the flats and downhills I was effectively braking and applying strain to my knee in this way. How unexpected!

Steady resumption, ache is flat/downhill related

From Evernote:

Steady resumption, ache is flat/downhill related

The last two days I have been able to go out for an 8 and 5 km run, and one thing is becoming clear: the ache is associated with flat and downhill running. The plan is to really concentrate on getting some good hard climbs in. The rather bizarre problem is to work out how to get back down each time!

− I should soon have a bus pass that will enable me to stink out the passengers and head downhill.

− I could also see about bike hire in town and ride the hire bike back downhill, although I'm not sure where this would work on a big enough hill.

− My wife works at the top of an 8 km hill, so I need to work out a way to run to her when she has the car.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

5k, frozen ice cups and refrigerated ibuprofen gel: 1.0

Saw the doctor, which I was glad for, all the usual checks plus both knees symmetrical, and nothing externally noticeable. Due to the ibuprofen triggering some mild asthma, I am back on the gel version, but what a brainwave of the doc: keep it in the fridge, and apply just before and after running. The third application can be whenever.

So I did this, went out really slowly, totalled 5.3k in something like 33 minutes, it was 10 minute miling on average anyway. I was really focussing on running and improving my footstrike alignment, and circular "pedalling" the feet, relaxed shoulders, rapid cadence, aligned arm swing, head steady and possibly more. I have to say, when I read Julian Goather's chapter on running technique (see the Art of Running Faster), I was concerned that not only for new runners but also for me (even though I know I am still quite inexperienced) that this was a lot of advice to hold in balance at once. Like telling a learner driver to take on the city centre. But actually, I found I could rotate from one focus to the next, and that their was a natural relationship between this aspects, with one exception, which I had never noticed as an issue before: the arm swing. This would frequently revert to coming across the body. Since I didn't really bring the speed up much, as this definitely seems to be linked to the knee ache, I do wonder if this is something that aligns as the speed increases.

For the moment I am avoiding the knee support. I am wary of them as I know that once (2009, Belgium) I had one that actually made the knee ache more.

I praise God, for there is still hope for this marathon next month. I have been learning so much, I feel confident that some of the lessons learned could offset some of the fitness lost.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Stiffness: 1.0

A bit stiff in the knee yesterday from knee raises only.
Stiff this morning too. Seeing doctor this afternoon to discuss the options, which will probably include physio. Trying to stay positive and focussed, eg eating well, drinking little alcohol and am looking into the swimming options, a sport I find really very dull!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Not quite identical = 0.4

Yesterday did some push-ups, sit-ups and 4x 100 knee raises, plus 1km jog. Feel good, but when flexed or lightly pushed on the patella, the two knees don't feel quite the same. I think today will maybe increase only to 1 mile and take very gently. Tomorrow - if OK today - will try a 5 km climb.